DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

My Name Is (insert name) and I am (insert sexuality)…

Written by: on March 6, 2015

About two years ago I sat across the table from one of my college students when he says this, “I have to tell you something. I’m gay. I know I’m going to hell for feeling this way, but I’ve known since I was in 6th grade. I know I’m choosing hell over heaven, but I don’t know what ales to do.” I had three reactions… my first reaction was laughter. I laughed because it was the last thing I expected…. I laughed because I was prepared for him to tell me that he got someone pregnant. I laughed because I walked with him for the past 10 years and only now he had the courage to tell me this. I laughed because it all made sense now. His attitude throughout Jr. High and High School… his attachments… his friendships… it all flashed before my eyes and it made sense. My laughing made the situation a little less difficult and took some of the pressure off of him.

My second reaction was anger. I was not angry at the fact that he was gay, I was angry that he thought that this was a salvation issue. I was angry that he thought that God hated him… and that this was the thing that was going to determine his salvation. I‘ve been his pastor for 10 years and he did not get that from me… so I quickly stopped him and said, “Wait! You’ve been under my teaching for 10 years and this is what you picked up? I have never ever taught you this… “It wasn’t my teaching that caused him to reach this conclusion, but it was the culture and context. So, I took the time to explain the Gospel to him one more time… to share God’s love and God’s desire for him. I wanted him to remember that salvation is not work/ act based, but salvation is the result of God’s grace and mercy shown on the cross. When I was done, he asked me if I was sure. He said, “Are you sure God still loves me?” I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself that question… or has that thought ever crossed my mind. I continued to say that though I don’t understand his feelings…. And I can’t pretend to understand same sex attraction, I know that I love him and I will stand with him (even if I don’t understand or fully agree). He is welcome in our community… he is part of our family… and I will stand with him, even if it costs me my job (which it might, I’m in the PCA).

My third reaction was the internal conflict that comes with this coming out experience. I remain convinced that the issue of homosexuality is not a salvation issue, but it’s a discipleship issue. It’s about the depth and the intimacy that you can have with God while living a lifestyle that is different than what God intended for you (I cringe inside when I say this). Gosh, I think about all the ways I fall short and all the decisions that I make that seem to be contrary to the “lifestyle” that God had intended for me to live.

I struggle with just how much our sexuality defines us. It’s almost like our self worth is determined by who our sexual partner is, and how many sexual partners we have had. There has to be more to my worth and my personhood than whom I sleep with. I don’t want my sexuality to be the first impression people have of me.

What I really appreciate about Andrew Marin’s book, Love is an Orientation, is the fact that it elevates all of our humanity, not just the gay community.

Martin seems to understand one thing well, that God looks at the heart and He changes the heart… we focus on changed behavior, but that’s secondary to someone’s encounter with God. It takes a lifetime to change behavior. We as a church need to give up trying to fix people, and changing hearts, but rather get in the business of showing God’s love. This doesn’t mean softening our position or theology, but it does mean being patient in understanding that God changes people… and that takes time.

I can’t help but think about Jesus’ reaction to the prostitute. He accepted her. He didn’t agree with her “lifestyle choice” but he reached out to her… and stood up for her, not once her behavior changed, but in the midst of it. Yes, he told her to sin no more, but He tells us the same thing over and over again… sin no more! Do I still sin? Maybe! 🙂

Finally, I end with a few questions…

  1. Is my sexual identity of more value than my identity in Christ?
  2. Is the act of having sex the highest form of intimacy… and is it the highest form of expressing love?

About the Author

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Stefania Tarasut

8 responses to “My Name Is (insert name) and I am (insert sexuality)…”

  1. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Stefania, thanks for your thoughtful post. Your post reminds me that our discipleship determines the kind of lifestyle we chose to live. I appreciate the lesson you draw from Jesus. You ask good questions to reflect on. I believe our identity in Christ is very important. As Paul said in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

  2. mm John Woodward says:

    Stefania, what an amazing reaction…you laughed! I thought you were going to say it was nervousness laughter…that you didn’t know what to say. And doing ministry for a long time, it is a reality that people whom you have taught and guided for a long time come up with some very weird conclusions. I think God gives us these situations to help us rethink and reevaluate, and is one of the reason that so many Christians are soul searching on issues like sex and same sex relations. That is why I am so inclusive…and it isn’t really just about these gay issues, but there are so many connected issues that I think makes clarity so hard, as the church and society are changing so fast (do I sound old??). But I too like Marin, because in the midst of all this confusion, there is no reason not to be Christ-like in our love and acceptance. Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Stefania
    This is a really good post! Thank you for sharing your experience. I love how you made it clear to this young man that he was still loved by God and part of the church family. As you rightly say, it’s a discipleship issue. We spend our whole lives on a journey with God, discovering His will in various areas of our lives. Who are we to condemn another person? Thank you for an interesting read.

  4. Stefania,

    Brilliant, honest, humble, common sensical post. Loved it! Thanks for sharing.

    You say, “What I really appreciate about Andrew Marin’s book, Love is an Orientation, is the fact that it elevates all of our humanity, not just the gay community.” I agree wholeheartedly. It’s OK to be human, and we ALL struggle with something; I know I do. I also like how Marin calls each of us to responsible thinking and living. He also allows the Holy Spirit to do the convicting and we to do the loving. I like that a lot.

    I have been married to the same wonderful woman for almost 34 years now. Of course we are sexual beings, but sexuality is only a part of who we are, not all of who we are. The most important part of our relationship is our friendship. We have intimacy every day through getting to know each other more and more. I have the deepest talks with my wife; and we talk about everything and anything. I think this is the deepest form of intimacy. That is my experience.

  5. mm Julie Dodge says:

    Well done, Stefania. And you ask some great questions. I’m going to jump on those. Or maybe a variation of one. How important is our sexual identity? How deep? The more I learn and live, the more I recognize the depth and power of our sexual identity. In a loving relationship, when we are sexually intimate, we experience the deepest, most vulnerable, most intimate bonding. Years ago, a Christian psychologist named Donald Joy wrote extensively in the power and spiritual meaning of sexual intimacy. It indeed seems to be a significant and core part of our identity. And our sexual bonding, it can be argued, is both a spiritual and physical form of bonding. The two become one. Which has implications for everything from healthy attachment of committed relationship to the unhealthy that comes from sexual abuse and promiscuity (though I see even these two issues as having very different implications). I think God created sexual intimacy for beauty, but our fallen nature has distorted it. I feel myself starting to ramble, so bottom line, I think our sexual identity is a deep, core part of our identity. Which is why we all have such deep reactions to this topic. So what do we do? We do what you so beautifully modeled with your youth member. We love each other. We show the truth of the gospel, which is based in Gods grace. Great post, Stef.

  6. Michael Badriaki says:

    Great post Stefania! You bring out a dimension about the on going complex struggle the world and especially the church face about matter of sexuality. I believe it is such a great opportunity to offer care and love and you so beautifully did with the student who approached you. The fact that he felt like he could tell you is a great sign between both of you of how love works as well. You write, “So, I took the time to explain the Gospel to him one more time… to share God’s love and God’s desire for him. I wanted him to remember that salvation is not work/ act based, but salvation is the result of God’s grace and mercy shown on the cross. When I was done, he asked me if I was sure. He said, “Are you sure God still loves me?” I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself that question… or has that thought ever crossed my mind. ”

    You clearly help us see that the need to dwell in an atmosphere of love where we have the opportunity to share and demonstrate the power and impact of the gospel in our lives with fellow humanity is the opportunity we might miss when we chose other fear based approaches. You showed love to the student and that a great example for many of us.

    Thank you for sharing!

  7. mm Deve Persad says:

    Stefania, I love the post and the questions – the first one is so important for people on all sides of these issues: where does my identity lie? The second question speaks right into our cultural definitions of love and sex and how much they pale when compared to the fullness and multi-faceted way that God has created them to be. I like the way Bill responded by describing his relationship with his wife, there is so much more to love than sexual intimacy. Tragically, our culture has tried to force us to stop the conversation there, but perhaps in relationships like you describe above, we have the opportunity to open wide those discussions in ways that honour God and give people the opportunity to respond.

  8. Miriam Mendez says:

    Stefania, As I read the first paragraph of your post I had tears in my eyes. I too had a young person come to me and say, “I know I am going to hell because I am gay.” I too was angry because this young person believed that God hated them. I still remember the tears that filled my eyes as this young person was crying and talking about how bad they are now and how dirty they felt. Oh my goodness–how is the church reflecting the love of God? I agree with your statement, “We as a church need to give up trying to fix people, and changing hearts, but rather get in the business of showing God’s love. This doesn’t mean softening our position or theology, but it does mean being patient in understanding that God changes people… and that takes time.” Amen! Thanks Stefania for your great insights.

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